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Broking lessons from Covid-19

by  Chris Carney  |  28 Apr 2020

Rapid change

As we all know, the last few weeks have been hugely challenging for individuals and organisations as they struggle to come to terms with the Covid-19 global pandemic. One by one, countries have entered lock-down to slow the spread of the virus and to help prevent healthcare systems from being overwhelmed.

Agile leadership and the availability of enabling technologies, however, have meant that changes to working patterns that would traditionally take months or even years to achieve have been implemented in just a few days – an amazing achievement.

Remote working

Working from home at the scale we see today would have been impossible just ten years ago. Modern, cloud-based policy administration platforms with responsive web interfaces enable brokers to work from home using laptops, tablets, and for short periods, their smart phones.

The ability to have full access to a client’s records whilst working remotely has meant that brokers are able to continue to serve their clients with minimal interruption.

We all have quickly adapted to holding ad-hoc video conferences with our clients and colleagues whilst sitting at our kitchen tables and in spare bedrooms. Interruptions from bored children and partners delivering cups of tea humanise us at a time of crisis, and strengthen our community bonds.

Electronic trading

The closure of the Underwriting Room at Lloyd’s on the 19th March has forced a sometimes reluctant market to embrace electronic trading; the Lloyd’s Market Association has noted a 40% increase in the number of unique users of PPL and a doubling of submissions since the closure of the room. The accelerated shift to e-placement will undoubtedly highlight areas that can be improved, and the Future at Lloyd’s programme should be able to glean valuable insight to inform design, as it continues to develop the design for the Complex Risk Platform.

The greatest efficiencies in a new electronically traded marketplace will come from the integration to modern policy admin systems and video conferencing tools. A “Data First” trading environment will eliminate re-keying, accelerate the use of tools to triage submissions, and enable automation & AI to price risks efficiently to help deliver an improved client proposition.

Future models

The Covid 19 pandemic created an unwanted, but nevertheless valuable experiment in alternative ways of working. Companies emerging from the lockdown need to take the time to review their experiences, learn and adapt their transformation plans in line with the changing customer landscape.

Distributed and more flexible working practices are likely to become the normalised. This will generate new risks to be managed, such as employee health & safety, or increased exposure to cyber risks.

Client needs will also change in a post Covid-19 world. Many will be increasingly adapted to on-line, self-service models and will need their protection updated to suit their revised risk and exposure profiles. Traditional brick & mortar high street businesses and mass participation events may be slower to recover and present more challenging exposures from unoccupied properties and moral hazard.

Brokers need to ensure that they can respond to their client’s needs and be capable of delivering their own products & services across multiple channels. This may require acquiring new skills and technology in a relatively short space of time to build and deploy the new capabilities.

Regulators will no doubt increase their scrutiny over the suitability of products offered, and carriers are likely to be less accommodating when it comes to accepting more generous broker wordings, especially for BI coverage. Expect to see increasing use of AI and automation to ensure that demands & needs are properly assessed and that the rationale behind recommending solutions is clearly documented.

Conclusion

This has been an extremely challenging time, but adversity has presented a real opportunity for the insurance marketplace to embrace digital transformation. Important lessons have been learnt on how to manage remote working at scale and these need to be applied to enhance business resilience and customer value.

Brokers that adapt to the post Covid-19 environment will be agile, client centric and deliver products that demonstrably fit their clients. Efficient distribution through e-trading (quote and bind) will replace shoe leather, supported by face to face negotiation over video conferencing.

Data will be used to identify and justify recommended products and carriers, perhaps through the use of AI recommendation engines. Clients will be able to interact with their brokers in a multi-channel environment, with self-service options for common interactions.

Colleagues will be able to work flexibly, with fully secure access to client records and the broader electronic marketplace. Data will flow freely amongst colleagues and workflow will ensure service standards are achieved. Video team meetings & check-ins will ensure continued engagement and sense of community.

The broker of the future will emerge from this pandemic – how will you adapt?

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